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Prospective Volunteers


The extraordinary Portland Japanese Garden is maintained in part through the vital support of our year-round volunteers. There are eight different volunteer programs that fall under the “volunteer umbrella” at the Garden. Each program requires a different level of volunteer experience and commitment, although we ask every volunteer to commit to a minimum of 15 hours of service for a period no shorter than one year.

No matter which program you choose, we welcome you to join our dynamic volunteer team! Below is a detailed list of our volunteer programs.

Culture, Arts & Education Program

The Culture, Arts, and Education program is the most popular at the Garden, because it offers the most flexible shift times. Volunteer opportunities in this program include, assisting with gallery exhibitions and annual cultural festivals.

Exhibition docents report to the Garden’s Exhibition Coordinator and orient and welcome visitors, provide short tours of exhibitions, maintain cleanliness in the gallery, and secure artworks from theft or damage. Interested parties should have a background in, or willingness to learn about, Japanese art, culture, history, and design. Mandatory docent orientations are offered before the start of each exhibition. Individuals must be 18 years old or older to apply to apply.

The Garden celebrates numerous Japanese cultural festivals throughout the year, including: Children’s Day, Tanabata, O-bon, and Moonviewing. Cultural festival volunteers assist the CAE team in making these events a success. They will be asked to greet visitors, assist with traditional arts and crafts, serve food and drinks, rove the Garden, and enforce Garden etiquette with attendees. The shift times are flexible. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.

Event Support Program

With more than 100 annual events, the Garden relies on the support of volunteers to make every one of our events a success. Volunteers assist the events team in two primary ways: exhibition staging and receptions.

Exhibition staging volunteers assist the events team with the load in portion of our Affinity Group exhibition staging process (ie: ikebana and bonsai exhibitions). These shifts are generally 2-3 hours long and occur on weekdays and weekends. Volunteers who are interested in being an exhibition staging volunteer should be comfortable working alone and independently, be familiar with the Garden and its policies, and be physically capable of lifting light loads of around 10 lbs or less.

Reception volunteers assist the events team with reception-style events. Reception volunteers must be 21 or older; able to stand for 2-3 hours at a time; able to lift light loads; and have a natural enjoyment of people. The shifts for receptions occur on weekdays and weekends, usually from 6:00pm-9:30pm. Volunteers with a valid OLCC permit are preferred.

Horticultural Support Program 

The horticultural support program is a hands-on program that is perfect for the rugged volunteer who is eager to get their hands dirty with tasks such as: sweeping pathways, raking moss, picking blossoms, clearing away weeds, and pulling ivy.  After attending an orientation session, horticultural support volunteers are asked to commit to working a regular weekday shift from 8am-12pm and volunteer for at least four hours per month or 48 hours per year.

Tour Guide Program

There are two primary assignments under the tour guide program, Garden guides and speaker’s bureau presenters. Garden guides provide our visitors with interesting and informative cultural, historical, and horticultural information about the Garden. They are responsible for leading public tours, as well as private tours for groups of college students, adults, school groups, and chartered bus tours. They are also asked to rove the Garden during our prime hours of 11am-3pm to provide visitors with information on our more austere gardens, like the Sand and Stone Garden. We strongly encourage guides to sign up for a regular schedule of two tours per month or commit to 24 hours of service per year.

Speaker’s bureau volunteers are trained Garden guides who travel around the Portland Metro area and give virtual tours of the Garden to groups who cannot physically make it to the Garden because of time, distance, or mobility.

Both assignments in the Tour Program require the volunteer to complete our guide training program.

Office Support Program

Office support volunteers work in the Garden’s Administrative Office and primarily support the Garden’s membership, development, and marketing departments with duties like: stuffing and sealing envelopes, folding and cutting packet inserts, organizing files, and putting together multi-piece mailings. Office support work may not be glamorous, but it is much needed and is a great opportunity to experience much of the behind-the-scenes work at the Garden.

Office support shifts are offered on weekdays only, usually in the afternoon for 2-3 hour long shifts.

Haiku Alive! School Program

Haiku Alive! volunteers join us in our efforts to engage underserved youth in the Parkrose School District of the Portland area. Haiku Alive! volunteers work alongside educators in the fall to engage underserved populations of grade school kids in learning about the Garden through writing Haiku poetry.  Then, in the spring time, volunteers lead Parkrose students around the Garden on photo excursions tours where children are given the opportunity to learn about photography as inspiration for creating Haiku. At the end of the school year the students’ haiku and photos are collected in a final project.

Haiku Alive! shifts are offered on weekday mornings or early afternoons for 2-3 hour long shifts. Haiku Alive! volunteers must consent to yearly background checks with the Parkrose School District.

Retail Volunteer Program – new in Spring 2017

The new Volunteer Retail Associate position will assists with all day-to-day tasks in the Garden Gift Store with a focus on customer service. They will interact with Gift Store visitors and work alongside Gift Store staff to assist in answering questions about products and with the organizing, wrapping, stocking, and stickering of product. The Retail Volunteer Associate should have a friendly and outgoing personality; be interested in learning about Japanese culture and how it relates to store products, crafts, and artwork; be attentive to customer needs and be comfortable working on their feet with some bending and occasional lifting.

Training will be provided by the Retail Store Manager. Retail Volunteer Associates will be asked to commit to two 3 hour shifts per month for a period no shorter than one year. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.

Village Concierge Program – new in Spring 2017

The Village Concierge volunteer will be stationed on main floor of our new Garden House within the Cultural Village. The Concierge will greet and orient visitors to the Garden. They will distribute the Garden’s brochure and self-guided map, advertise for daily public tours and Garden events, and answer general questions about the Garden. Applicants should be warm and personable and possess strong interpersonal and communication skills. They should also be able to work effectively with diverse populations and be able to answer questions about the Garden and other venues in Washington Park.

The Village Concierge will be asked to commit to two four hour shifts per week for a period no shorter than one year. Weekday and weekend shifts are available.


Volunteering at the Garden is a way to build community, gain knowledge of Japanese culture, have new and exciting experiences, and have fun! Garden volunteers are a crucial link between the public and the Garden, and allow our small non-profit organization to thrive.

Volunteers are required to be Garden members, and as such, receive the same benefits as members. In addition to member benefits, volunteers’ receive the following:

  • Induction into Oregon’s Volunteer Passport Program
  • Annual complimentary Washington Park volunteer parking pass awarded after 15 hours of service each year.
  • Continuing education and annual volunteer appreciation events


Our Volunteer Coordinator will get back to you within 1-2 days business days to schedule an interview with the director of the volunteer assignment/s you indicated on your application. Please be prepared to give a few times/dates that you are available for an interview.


To apply please fill out our general online application form or contact our Volunteer Coordinator at (503) 542-9354 or